Your physician will first take a detailed medical history and ask you about your complaints. You should clarify the origin and severity of your symptoms and point out factors that improve or worsen them. If you are using any medication, you will be expected to share this information with the physician as well.
Your physical exam will consist of the following:
Your physician will examine your body, checking for any signs of deformity, swelling, wasting, or redness. He or she will compare the right and left halves of your body to compare the symmetry of your limbs and joints. You will also be asked to walk back and forth so your gait and posture can be assessed. Based on the doctor’s observations, he or she can check how many joints are affected and the extent of any preexisting disorders.
While your physician feels your joints and muscles, you may feel pain. This will help the doctor find the exact source of the pain and determine its cause. Your physician will also feel your muscles and joints to detect swelling, warmth, and crepitus (grinding sensation). Additionally, your muscle strength will be tested to assess motor function. You will be expected to flex, extend, and rotate various joints and muscles so your physician can observe if there’s any muscle weakness present.
Range of motion (ROM)
Range of motion (ROM) tests are a key component of musculoskeletal assessment. They evaluate the degree of movement of your joints. If you face difficulty moving your joints and experience restricted flexibility, this is a sign of a musculoskeletal disorder. Your physician will ask you to move your limbs and joints as much as you can to evaluate your ROM and its degree of restriction – this is called an active ROM test. A passive ROM test consists of your physician moving your joints himself to assess their mobility.
If necessary, further imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound may be requested to confirm diagnosis of musculoskeletal disorders.